It may seem odd having dementia on a poetry site but I am lucky in that I can combine two of my passions right here. Writing poetry and raising awareness of dementia. Putting life’s bumps and bruises into poetry can lead to greater understanding and compassion – it can soften the blows maybe. My dementia poems are not sugar coated, they are raw and real. However they are written with an understanding and compassion for those with dementia and their carers.
I worked in elderly residential care in various roles for 25 years, ending up as deputy manager. I was trained by the Norfolk and Suffolk Dementia Alliance as a Dementia Care Coach. An esteemed colleague and I were runners up in the Suffolk Care Awards for the training we provided to staff. However, my greatest joy was holding an impromptu gathering and discussing an individual’s care, which invariably lead to improved communication between staff and resident.
I brought up three children who are now amazing adults, each of whom I am desperately proud. My grandchildren are little people who are also going to contribute much to this world. When they were young, I worked – played – as a “dinner lady” (with all that that entails) at a Primary School, as well as being a parent volunteer in the classrooms, especially if there was painting involved! I used this experience to write explaining dementia to children and questions children may have about dementia.
I have also written a small ebook which will help adults start open and honest communication with children about dementia. It is in the form of three amusing and engaging poems with accompanying text. Poetry with its rhyme and rhythm tends to hold children’s attention; therefore they listen and learn more effectively.
People with dementia
What is so often missed is that the most important word here is PEOPLE. Not dementia!
There are many causes of dementia, many types, but each and every case is different because it is happening to a different person. We must learn to look behind the symptoms and see that person. If we work out how they see the world now, we can enter their kingdom and speak the same language.
Most people with dementia speak from their heart, their emotional centre, not from their head. They are aware of how they feel, what they want, what hurts, what they like, but are not able to put those needs into our words any more. We must interpret their communication rather than demanding that they use our language. Because they can’t! They cannot conform to society’s etiquette because it no longer makes sense. Be honest, do all of our “musts” and “shoulds” make sense? Wearing a particular set of clothing at night. Eating particular foods at set times of day. Using eating tools in a prescribed manner. Seriously, does it always make sense?
Go into their world. For the essentials, label cupboards, remove the real dangers, get a support system…but for as long as possible, let this person life their life! As THEY choose…no matter if you don’t like their choices!
My dementia poems are designed to be gently enlightening. They may also provoke tears. Mainly, I hope they will make anyone who cares for someone with an emotional illness realise that they are not alone. Whatever they are thinking, however they feel, they are not alone.
Explaining dementia to children
One huge soapbox I spend time standing on is bringing understanding of dementia to children. It is vital that the adults of the future have compassion and knowledge gently instilled before the world corrupts their natural acceptance and curiosity.
I have pre-empted seventeen questions that children may ask about dementia. A bonus feature is that I have added thirteen questions that they may have but dare not ask. These are the questions you need to read and gently introduce the subject if you think it necessary. They are the questions that flag up buried worries maybe.
Why Doesn’t Granny Know Me Now? Click the title to get to the landing page!
I have written a book with this mission in mind. It has three snappy poems in it with child friendly explanatory text. Each poem covers a different type of dementia and situation. There is no jargon – just ordinary language which helps adults talk naturally about dementia.
“Why Doesn’t Granny Know Me Now?” is a paraphrase of a question asked by a child upon his return from a visit to his granny who was beginning her journey with dementia. “How do you explain to a five year old?” I wondered. Then I realised that I had the skill set to answer.
The ebook covers many of the day to day issues raised when a family member has dementia. Opening the door to frank and honest discussion about the condition can soothe fears and give you an important ally and helper.